Branching Streams Newsettes

Newsettes to Branching Streams Affiliate Sanghas

November 2020

November 23, 2020
November 17, 2020
November 10, 2020
November 3, 2020

October 2020

October 26, 2020
October 20, 2020
October 13, 2020
October 6, 2020

September 2020

September 29, 2020
September 21, 2020
September 14, 2020
September 9, 2020

August 2020

August 31, 2020
August 25, 2020
August 18, 2020
August 10, 2020
August 4, 2020

July 2020

July 29, 2020
July 20, 2020
July 14, 2020
July 7, 2020

June 2020

June 30, 2020
June 22, 2020

November 23, 2020

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, the City Center Fall practice period is nearing its close. Rohatsu sesshin begins on Saturday the 28th, ending with a Shuso ceremony for Sozan Diego Miglioni on Saturday, December 5th.

Many Branching Streams groups in the U.S., Canada, and Europe will be spending days in the silence of sesshin and celebrating Buddha’s enlightenment, as the nights grow longer in the Northern hemisphere.

At this pre-holiday time, when we may have more time for reading, I will devote this week’s Newsette to several soon-to-be-released books by Buddhist authors, all connected with Branching Streams sanghas. We (our new webmaster Jon Voss and I) plan to feature reviews of these books on the Branching Streams website.

Guiding teacher of Still Breathing Sangha Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s new book The Deepest Peace, will be released by Parallax Press on December 1st. Zenju writes in the introduction: “I have testified many times of my suffering. Before I die, I must speak of peace.” “Reading this book is a profound meditation in itself,” says poet Naomi Shihab Nye. “Exquisitely crafted and perfectly paced—you will feel your whole being calming down, responding with layered grace to the rich gifts offered here.”

An essay by Houston Zen Center Priest Gyozan Royce Andrew Johnson appears in Black and Buddhist, What Buddhism Can Teach Us about Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom, edited by Pamela Ayo Yetunde, who was the keynote speaker at this year’s Soto Zen Buddhist Association conference and Cheryl A. Giles. Published by Shambhala, Black and Buddhist will be out on December 8th. Leading African American Buddhist teachers offer lessons on racism, resilience, spiritual freedom, and the possibility of a truly representative American Buddhism. With contributions by Acharya Gaylon Ferguson, Cheryl A. Giles, Gyōzan Royce Andrew Johnson, Ruth King, Kamilah Majied, Lama Rod Owens, Lama Dawa Tarchin Phillips, Sebene Selassie, and Pamela Ayo Yetunde.

San Francisco Zen Center Board member Carla Sterling Walter’s Sacred Dance Meditations, published by North Atlantic Press, will be available on December 15th. This book offers readers 365 dances–one for every day–rooted in traditions from around the globe. Each dance is different in origin and technique but connected in common purpose: as sacred conduits for hope, love, connection, community, and spirituality. Carla is the founder of Dance in the Spirit, an organization that recognizes the value of sacred dance as a daily practice linked with mindfulness, along with its ability to emphasize and anchor us to the present moment. Carla considers herself a perpetual beginner in the Suzuki Roshi Soto Zen practice tradition.

Daijaku Kinst, guiding teacher of Ocean Gate Zen Center in Santa Cruz, California, highly recommends, Be the Refuge: Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists by Chenxing Han. Chenxing Han was a student of Daijaku’s in the Institute of Buddhist Studies Chaplaincy Program in Berkeley, CA. Daijaku notes, “Not only is Chenxing a excellent scholar, she has the ability to invite people to share their lives and perspectives with her, and this work reflects that skill. She takes special care to include the voices of young Asian American Buddhists.” Be the Refuge, published by North Atlantic Books, is available for pre-order, and will be out in January, 2021. There is more detailed info at www.chenxinghan.com, and a list of reviews here.

If you know of other books or articles by sangha members that you’d like to recommend to others, please let me know.

November 17, 2020

As the weather cools, with snow in some parts of the U.S. and Canada, the new cases of Covid-19 and deaths are rising. This has delayed the partial reopening of indoor spaces for some Zen Centers in the U.S. and affected sanghas in Europe as well.

This newsletter begins with messages from Branching Streams groups in Slovenia, Belfast, and Berlin. It also includes a message from Jon Voss about his Zoom Clinic, and an invitation to a SFZC online evening event for those interested in racial justice.

Nada Odar writes from Slovenia: “Congratulation to US nation and whole world for the current elections. Here in Slovenia we have a chance to take part in online Sanga with Djinn Gallagher and Paul Haller [in Belfast, N. Ireland], plus Bernd Bender’s Akazienzendo in Germany on Fridays and Thursdays with a Rinzai group here in Slovenia.”

Djinn Gallager, teacher at Black Mountain Zen Centre in Belfast, notes: “The cases in the north of Ireland are, as I’m sure you know, rocketing again, and we tend to stay indoors as much as possible, which is no hardship as the weather is pretty gloomy. I sit online every morning with the Black Mountain sangha and swim every afternoon in a nearby pool that is empty apart from me, so that’s very nourishing. I’ve been participating in Bernd’s Berlin group, which is lovely, and recently gave a talk at Colin Gipson’s group in San Antonio in Texas, so there are many opportunities for connection that were unsuspected before the pandemic.”

And Bernd Bender, guiding teacher of Akazienzendo in Berlin, writes: “We decided to close the zendo again starting November 1st. We have a lockdown “light”, and religious institutions are not affected by it, but we interpreted our bodhisattva vow to support this measure of practicing physical distancing to flatten the curve, and I hope all our online activities remain an ongoing support to most active members.”

Jon Voss will be offering his Zoom Clinic tomorrow, Wednesday November 18th from 11 to noon Pacific time, and then will take a break until the new year. If you have any Zoom questions, large or small, Here’s the link to tomorrow’s clinic. Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143.

USF law professor and mindfulness teacher Rhonda Magee will be in conversation with SFZC Abbot Tenzen David Zimmerman about The Inner Work of Racial Justice on Saturday November 21st from 6 to 8 p.m. Pacific time. Rhonda Magee teaches embodied mindfulness—the practice of paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations in an open, nonjudgmental manner—as a way to support and inform this important work. Rhonda is the author of The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness. For more information or to register, here is a link to this event.

November 10, 2020

I’m a little late in writing this week’s Newsette due to celebrating the results of the presidential election on Saturday (quietly, as we were in the midst of a one-day sitting here when the news was announced), and my 80th birthday on Sunday. I took yesterday as a vacation day to hike to the ocean at Point Reyes.

At the Branching Streams Conference near Milwaukee in September 2018 Rob Lyons from Berkeley Zen Center (BZC)gave a presentation about election sesshins. This fall many Branching Streams sanghas participated in election retreats, wrote letters to get out the vote, sent texts, participated in phone-banking. And voted. Thank you all so much!

I felt a weight lift from my shoulders when I heard about the news of the new leadership of our country this weekend. This was followed by joy, and then exhaustion, realizing how stressful our current political climate has been for the last four years. It’s not over yet… and change is coming. I am aware that many people in the U.S. are feeling grief, fear, and anger about the results of the election and deep rifts divide this nation. How can we, the dharma, our sanghas, contribute to the process of healing?

I’d like to recommend a dharma talk given by Eijun Linda Cutts at Green Gulch Farm on Sunday November 8th, “Kind Speech turns the Destiny of a Nation.” Here is the link.

Practicing the precepts, zazen, study, ceremonies, all continue to encourage and support us to meet the challenges of these times. Please continue to send me news of what keeps you going.

Ancient Dragon Zen Gate Guiding Dharma Teacher Taigen Leighton invites you to a Lay Entrustment ceremony he will perform for Douglas Floyd on Sunday, November 15th at the time of their Dharma talk, 10:15 am [Chicago time]. This will follow zazen at 9:30. Everyone is welcome. Sign in to their Zoom zendo from [www.ancientdragon.org].

Jon Voss, member of Mid-City Zen in New Orleans is offering his weekly Zoom clinic on Wednesday at 11 a.m. Pacific time. Here’s the link. Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143.

November 3, 2020

It’s the morning of election day in the U.S. I think this is a day all of us will remember, no matter where in the world we are living. I am featuring some events offered by sanghas in the U.S. and in the U.K. related to today’s election.

Perhaps some of you are planning to spend part of today as poll monitors or participating in phone-banking. Perhaps some of you would like to meditate with others today. If so, there are two opportunities I’m aware of. You may know of others in your area.

Two Streams Zen in Westhampton, MA are hosting a sitting tonight:

POST-ELECTION AWARENESS, CONNECTION, & EMPATHY
On Election Night in the United States, Two Streams Zen will host a safe online space for those who wish to come together in the spirit of community.
Tuesday, November 3 From 7 pm to 9 pm (US/Eastern)
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83705737810?pwd=K0krYnI2RUxSdkY5b2Erbk00dHJ3UT09
Meeting ID: 837 0573 7810 Passcode: 102376
Join us from anywhere in the world.
Feel free to come and go as you wish.
Peace, Power, & Love,
Anraku & Ryumon
Two Streams Zen Farm is a dedicated practice space for People of Color where the Teachings of the Buddha are made accessible to all who come through our doors seeking Sanity, Community, Healing, and an End to Suffering.

I will be hosting an open online Zendo at San Francisco Zen Center’s City Center this afternoon between 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time. Periods of Zazen will alternate with periods of walking or movement, and occasional offerings of encouraging words. You are welcome to participate for part or all of the time. Here is the link to the online zendo.

Events tomorrow:

Dear Ballot Bodhisattvas in the San Francisco Bay Area,
(Not in the area? Go to: www.protecttheresults.com for other locations and info.)
Join us while we gather, Wednesday 11/4 at noon, at the oak tree to sit together (masked, distanced, etc), meditate and reflect on whatever situation we find ourselves in – at Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza (near 12th St BART).
Look for our banner saying “COUNT EVERY VOTE.”
If you want to join us, please send an email to info@electionretreat.org with your name and mobile phone number so we can create a text group to update you with late breaking news about our gathering.

Friends in the U.K. who have trained with Joanna Macy in The Work That Reconnects are offering a 2-hour webinar/workshop tomorrow, beginning at 11a.m. PST, 7 p.m. GST

Active Hope in Times of Uncertainty with Margo van Greta and Jacqueline Buckingham

We currently are surrounded by challenges, both globally and personally. Is it possible to consider bringing hope into our lives, into the world? Active Hope holds the attitude of hope. It is not just an outcome; it is a process. Whatever you are challenged by: Climate Crisis, Covid-19, Redundancy, US-elections, Black Lives Matter, family and relationship issues, or whatever is up for you, during this participatory webinar Margo van Greta and Jacqueline Buckingham will guide you through a process by way of the spiral of the Work That Reconnects, to help bring you to a place of hope and inspired action. Register Here.

Having come through a several-day power outage due to last week’s hurricane, Jon Voss in New Orleans is offering his weekly Zoom clinic on Wednesday at 11 a.m. Pacific time. Here’s the link. Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143

May you and all beings be safe in the days ahead. Suzuki Roshi’s teachings on beginner’s mind seem especially relevant at this time.

October 26, 2020

I hope you are in good health and finding ways to enjoy the crisper air and changing colors of autumn. This week’s Newsette begins with a poignant ceremony and ends with Halloween. In this and in future Newsettes my aim is to share news from a wider range of Branching Streams groups, and to be less U.S.-Centric. Please help me by sharing your news!

The Stepping Down Ceremony for founding teacher and Abbot Sojun Mel Weitsman at Berkeley Zen Center on Saturday, October 24th, reminded me of the importance of honoring our elders. Many Branching Streams teachers received dharma transmission from Sojun Roshi and were among the 250 people attending this online ceremony. I saw the faces of teachers and members of 25 Branching Streams sanghas from all parts of the U.S. at the ceremony. Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi, Shunry Suzuki’s son, spoke as did Akiba Roshi, bishop of the Soto Shu, and several of Sojun’s senior students.
Sojun Roshi began his comments by offering an apology, saying “I want to wipe the slate clean…I will try harder.” He reflected on his deep gratitude to Suzuki Roshi and his teachings and stated that one of his own goals has always been to create harmony in the sangha.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. The journal Lions Roar recently published an article about the significance of Suzuki Roshi’s teachings with comments from Buddhist teachers including Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Sojun Mel Weitsman, and Konjin Gaelyn Godwin. Shambhala publishers will issue a special 50th anniversary edition.

You may wonder how students are continuing to sew rakusus in this time of physical distancing. Here is one innovative solution. Joan Amaral, guiding teacher of Zen Center North Shore (MA), wrote, “The semi-virtual sewing retreat this year with Laurie Belzer (sewing teacher and priest at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago) was beautiful and strong.” An onsite sangha member who is apprenticing with Laurie assisted the five sangha members preparing for jukai. “Many laptops and tv monitors made it possible for the people physically together to sew safely. The retreat was held at a sangha member’s home which has many spacious rooms while still feeling cozy. It also gave sangha members a chance to see each other in person since our schedule is currently 100% virtual.”

Teresa Bouza of Kannon Do Zen Center in Mountain View has been organizing a series of talks called Buddhism in Society. The next talk in the series will be given by Mushim Ikeda, a co-founder of the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, CA, on Saturday, October 31st from 10 to 11:30 Pacific Time. Here is a description: “Mushim will talk about how to move forward together in this time of divisiveness and chaos and how to create more diverse, inclusive Sanghas and come closer to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities as allies, practicing cultural humility and respectful curiosity.” Here is the link.

On a lighter note, Hartford Street Zen Center in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood is participating in a Halloween Pumpkin Walk on the afternoon of Saturday, October 31st. Their slogan is “wear your mask and wear a mask.”

You are welcome to attend Jon’s weekly Zoom clinic on Wednesday October 14th at 11 a.m. Pacific time. Here’s the link. Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143

October 20, 2020

It’s two weeks before election day in the U.S., and while many sanghas are focusing on practice periods and ceremonies of different kinds, members of many sanghas continue to get out the vote and prepare for the post-election period.

This Sunday I attended the first Jukai ceremony of Centro Budista Zen Soto in Puerto Rico, led by local guiding teacher Sandra Laureano and supported by her teacher Valorie Beer, who was in Northern California. One of the Zoom hosts was in New Orleans, and guests from Twining Vines ZC in New York State joined the Puerto Rican sangha members, the three ordinands, and their friends and family. The collaborative ceremony was conducted in Spanish.

Another example of Branching Streams teachers and leaders collaborating with and supporting other Centers is Austin Zen Center’s roster of speakers for their Fall Practice Period. Guiding teacher Mako Voekel writes: While AZC Practice Leaders will be holding the retreats, practice period gatherings, classes & other events during the Fall 2020 Practice Period, we are grateful for the opportunity (largely provided by the pandemic!) to invite a number of Visiting Teachers to give talks in our Online Zendo – all on the topic of Taking Refuge. These teachers include Eijun Linda Ruth Cutts, former Abbess of San Francisco Zen Center, Josho Pat Phelan, Abbess of Chapel Hill Zen Center, Kokyo Henkel, former Head Teacher of Santa Cruz Zen Center, and Zoketsu Norman Fischer, founder of Everyday Zen and former SFZC Abbot.

In case you missed this in last week’s Newsette, The Board of Directors of Berkeley Zen Center, with boundless gratitude, invites you to the Stepping Down Ceremony and Stepping Into Founding Dharma Teacher position for Hakuryu Sojun Mel Weitsman Roshi: Saturday, October 24 at 3 pm Pacific Time. The ceremony will be virtual; go to www.berkeleyzencenter.org and click on the link on the right hand column “Enter the Zendo Now” at the scheduled time. All are welcome.

Houston Zen Center will be having a Ceremony of Lay Dharma Entrustment on October 31, 2020 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Central Time. In this ceremony, Keisen Lynn Snow (Keisen Myōhō, Joyful River, Wondrous Phoenix) will receive entrustment as a Lay Dharma Teacher from Abbot Gaelyn. Lynn has been preparing for several years for the ceremony, while leading a group of Zen practitioners in Alabama. The ceremony will take place outside on the front lawn of the center, with a limited number of friends and family in attendance. Everyone is invited to participate via zoom. This ceremony acknowledges the importance and vitality of Lay Dharma leaders.
Please RSVP to Joy. You can enter the ceremony here.

Regarding pre-election activity, Reirin Gumbel, Guiding teacher of Milwaukee Zen Center, spoke last night at an Interfaith Candlelight Rally to “Light up Milwaukee” on the first day of early voting in a swing state in which there were many obstacles to voters in the primary election several months ago. The focus of the Interfaith Rally was to mobilize people to vote early. Their commitment is “to bring 100,000 souls to the polls.”

The election retreat group writes: Together we’ve written 25,000 letters to voters in swing states, and we urge you to participate in one of our upcoming phone banking retreats as well (October 25 and November 1). They are now turning their attention to the Engaged Buddhist Election Protection Project. “Many of us are deeply concerned that Donald Trump may try to steal this election.

As engaged Buddhists, our goal is simple: to make sure that everyone votes and every vote is counted.” For recommendations about actions we can take, please visit their website.

No matter how complex or simple your Zoom questions are, you are welcome to attend Jon Voss’s weekly Zoom clinic on Wednesday October 21st at 11 a.m. Pacific time. Here’s the link, and Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143

In this time of heightened spread of Covid-19 in many European countries as well as in many states in the U.S. and heightened tension in the U.S. due to the coming election, I have been appreciating the grounding practices of humming and rocking Resmaa Menakem describes in his book about racialized trauma, My Grandmother’s Hands (pp. 141-147) and recommend them to you.

October 13, 2020

This evening I took part in an interfaith vigil called Mourning Into Unity, outside Temple Emanu-el in San Francisco. It was one of many such Vigils taking place across the nation to activate people of Faith to vote and to stand together against the pandemics of Covid 19, systemic racism and environmental devastation. It’s the first time I’ve gathered with interfaith clergy since March, and though we all wore masks and maintained physical distance it felt very tender to stand in a circle and share our prayers for people in our city and country. There will be another Mourning Into Unity vigil next Monday in Washington DC outside the White House.

Today was Indigenous Peoples Day. I received an email from Stephanie Kaza, who spoke on the climate crisis at last year’s Branching Streams Conference, about steps sanghas can take to cultivate local indigenous awareness. Stephanie forwarded a message from Unitarian Universalists with some questions that made me realize how little I know about local indigenous people:
· Do you know the history of the land your congregation/sangha calls “home?”
· Do you know what Indigenous people historically or currently inhabit that land?
· Do you know who the Indigenous people or communities are who live in your area or region and what their visions and struggles are?
· Are you acting in relationship or solidarity with any of them?
If you’d like to read more, here is a link to the newsletter Stephanie forwarded.

Ceremonies are important ways of marking transitions in our sanghas. One of great significance is happening at Berkeley Zen Center later this month:

The Board of Directors of Berkeley Zen Center, with boundless gratitude, invites you to the Stepping Down Ceremony and Stepping Into Founding Dharma Teacher position for Hakuryu Sojun Mel Weitsman Roshi: Saturday, October 24 at 3 pm Pacific Time. The ceremony will be virtual; go to www.berkeleyzencenter.org and click on the link on the right hand column “Enter the Zendo Now” at the scheduled time. All are welcome.

Austin Zen Center is having a Tree-Planting Ceremony – A Celebration of Dharma Transmission on October 10th at 12:30pm Central Time. They will plant a Black Pine to celebrate and commemorate AZC Head Teacher Dōshin Mako Voelkel’s Dharma Transmission, given by her teacher Ryūshin Paul Haller in April 2019 at Tassajara. Dharma Transmission marks Rev. Mako’s full authorization as an independent Zen teacher. All are welcome to join us in-person or online for this significant event. Read more & register her.

Eishun Nancy Easton of Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago organized a day-long outdoor sesshin that brought many members of ADZG together face to face for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March. She writes, “On Sunday, October 4, 2020, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate held our first outdoor all-day sitting at the Harms Woods forest preserve, located just outside Chicago. Priests Eishin Nancy Easton and Gyoshin Laurel Ross co-led this event, which included seventeen participants who joined together for a day of physically-distanced zazen, services, and an extended meditative walk along a hiking trail by the Chicago River.” You can read the short article here.

In Jon Voss’s Zoom class recently, guiding teacher and members of Centro Budista Zen Soto in Puerto Rico have been planning their first Jukai, which will be conducted with only guiding teacher Sandra Laureano and three ordinands in the Zendo, and videoed by Zoom. No matter how complex or simple your Zoom questions are, you are welcome to attend Jon’s weekly Zoom clinic on Wednesday October 14th at 11 a.m. Pacific time. Here’s the link, and Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143

October 6, 2020

Even in the Bay Area, where it’s sometimes hard to recognize the changes in seasons, we’re seeing signs of autumn. Cooler weather and fog have aided firefighters in Northern California and the air quality in the Bay Area improved in the last week. San Francisco Zen Center’s City Center began our online Fall Practice Period last week. Branching Streams groups in Vancouver, Seattle, Austin, Brooklyn, and elsewhere are also beginning Fall practice periods at this time. It’s encouraging to have this more focused period of practice in the midst of the many tensions in our country.

Thank you to all the Branching Streams sanghas that have responded to the Covid-19 Survey. I’ve received 39 responses thus far and will reach out one more time to about 25 groups that have not yet responded. I will share the results next week.

Thanks also to those of you who responded to Sanriki from Montaña de Silencio Comunidad Zen Insight in Medellín, Colombia. He writes: “I tell you that the goal was reached, and even exceeded. ..With this, we can end the year without financial concerns and start 2021 with much more confidence…150 practitioners and friends supported us in the campaign. This is indeed a unique treasure that fills us with energy and courage to continue building our sangha and the right conditions to share the Dharma.”

There are two online DEIA events you may be interested in. One is tonight, October 6th from 7 to 8:30 EST, a dialogue, “What is Right Justice?” between Greg Snyder, co-guiding teacher of Brooklyn Zen Center and Rev. angel Kyodo Williams, offered through Union Theological Seminary in New York, where Greg teaches.

And Kannon Do in Mountain View, CA will be hosting an online talk about transformative justice with Lucy Andrews on Saturday October 10th, 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. (Pacific Time), as part of their “Buddhism in Society” Discussion Series. Lucy co-leads the Unpacking Whiteness program at San Francisco Zen Center and is a PhD candidate in environmental science at UC Berkeley. The link is: https://kannondo.org/event/online-buddhism-in-society-discussion-series-with-lucy-andrews/.

The Action to Feed the Hungry, an Online Gathering Sponsored by Houston Zen Center and Myoken-Ji is coming up this Sunday, October 11, 2020 11:30am – 1:30pm Central Time. Abbot Gaelyn Godwin says: “This year, during the global pandemic, it is more important than ever to come together to provide help and support for the many people who suffer food insecurity. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, the founder of Buddhist Global Relief, will join our action to give us encouraging words, as well as guided meditation. We invite everyone to participate by joining us for this online action.”

Jon Voss will be offering his weekly Zoom clinic every Wednesday from 11 to noon Pacific time. Bring your questions about hosting Zoom events, sounds for ceremonies, and anything else Zoom-related. Here’s the Zoom link. (Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143)

Thank you all for your sustained practice and for the many ways you encourage your sanghas.

September 29, 2020

This is a time of both celebration and mourning, sometimes expressed in ceremonies.

This past Saturday, three sanghas held outdoor Jukai ceremonies. I was able to attend the ceremonies in Austin and Houston by Zoom and received a description of the Jukai at All Beings Zen Sangha in Washington, D.C., written by their Shuso, Shōryū Chris Leader. “All Beings Zen Sangha held their second socially distanced Jukai ceremony this past weekend. The event was held in an open-sided barn at their rural retreat site and was attended by family members of the initiates and several sangha members. The barn was lit by the afternoon sunlight framing their preceptor and slipping through the boards of the ceiling. After the students took their vows and received their robes, each had a chance to step away from everyone, remove their mask, and address those who had gathered to support them. Afterward the ceremony closed with bells that roiled among the rafters, and exclamations of joy from Bodhisattvas and family alike.”

In recent newsletters we’ve spoken about closing ceremonies for beloved zendos. Ceremonies are also healing when loved ones die. Ramana Waymire of Ashland Oregon Zen Center writes: “One of our beloved sangha members, Kakuga Cyndi Grewe, died on September 7th. We held the traditional three-day vigil for her, adjusted for Covid-safety; only four in the zendo at a time, wearing masks and keeping social distance. At 72 hours we held a ceremony with 108 bows, with teachers and priests in the zendo with the windows open so that sangha could bear witness and participate from outside.”

Chris Fortin, guiding teacher of Dharma Heart Zen sangha, will be offering two online events centering Jizo Bodhisattva through San Francisco Zen Center. She writes: “In this time of difficulty and uncertainty, the archetype of Jizo Bodhisattva, an embodiment of fearlessness and great persistence, is a profound resource. Jizo vows to walk into the fires of suffering, and to accompany all beings across to the safety and equanimity of awakening.”

Chris is offering a Jizo Workshop and Ceremony (traditionally done for children who have died, it is relevant to losses of any kind), on October 10th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and an 8-week practice group that begins on October 15th. She says, “All are welcome, especially those in need of compassion, healing, and solace from the many losses, uncertainty, and changes of these times. Here’s a link for More information and registration.

We have received 31 responses to the Branching Streams Covid-19 Survey to date. The survey is designed to provide an overview of how the pandemic is affecting sanghas. If you haven’t responded, here’s the link to the survey. We request that only one person in each sangha respond. It will take 10 minutes or less to complete. Please respond by Friday, October 2nd. We will share the results in a Newsette and on the Branching Streams website.

The last letter writing election retreat will be on October 11th. Enrollment is open until Friday October 2nd. Here’s the link to their website: https://www.electionretreat.org/. In following weeks, election retreats will focus on phone-banking in swing states.

Jon Voss will be offering his weekly Zoom clinic every Wednesday from 11 to noon Pacific time. Bring your questions about hosting Zoom events, sounds for ceremonies, and anything else Zoom-related. Here’s the Zoom link. (Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143)

Thank you for reading this Newsette. May you find strength and sustenance in ceremonies, in your sanghas, in your families, in nature.

September 21, 2020

Although the fires near Tassajara have been sufficiently contained to create safe enough conditions for a few students to return, some fires are still burning in California, Oregon, and Washington.

This Newsette includes a message from Ashland Zen Center in Oregon, and news of Zendo closings in Chicago and San Jose, CA. These reports hint at the grief that many of us are feeling, as the number of deaths from Covid-19 in the U.S. nears 200,000. In addition, many of us are mourning the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg last Friday.

Ramana Waymire of Ashland Zen Center wrote on September 17th, “We are smoked in, but thankfully we are safe. We each know someone who has lost a home or livelihood to the Southern Oregon fires, and know many who have been displaced by fire. The outpouring of support from the whole valley has been tremendous in the face of this suffering. Our sangha is gathering up care packages to distribute to those affected by fire. We also have an apartment which we are making available for short-term housing for some people who are living in their cars because their homes burned down. The fires have disproportionally affected the Hispanic community so we are grateful to have a Mexican sangha member who can assist in translation.”

Zendo Closings:

Douglas Floyd, Board Chair, sent this message: “Based on three Sangha Community Meetings held in August, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate’s board of directors is announcing that we have unanimously agreed that Ancient Dragon Zen Gate will not be renewing our lease after it expires on December 31, 2020. It’s with a heavy heart that we came to this conclusion. The temple on Irving Park Boulevard in Chicago has been our home for over 10 years. It’s important, however, to keep in mind that Ancient Dragon Zen Gate was a community before we occupied that building, and also that in the midst of this pandemic we have stayed together and grown together as a community. We will conduct a temple closing ceremony on December 6, which will include removing the image of Shakyamuni Buddha from our altar. The ceremony will be streamed on ZOOM, and additional information about the ceremony will be posted beforehand on our website www.ancientdragon.org.”

Cornelia Shonkwiler, guiding teacher of Middle Way Zen writes: “We did close our rented space in San Jose. Middle Way Zen is continuing on Zoom for now, but we are hoping to find a new sitting space when the pandemic is over, or at least better controlled.”

Here is a description of the closing ceremony from sangha member Ann Meido Rice: [The ceremony] “was held in the garden courtyard of the Art Gallery with which we were associated, with many of the sangha in attendance, socially distanced and masked. The ceremony was a simple and poignant one, much like the history and workings of our sangha. It was one in which many students were involved without realizing the specific contribution they had made to the service.

Cornelia’s closing remarks were beautiful and real: ‘With the closing of our zendo, we may experience a sense of loss, but we should remember that an ending can lead to a new beginning…Let’s go forward with trust and confidence that this practice will continue forever.’

My overall experience was one of realization of the profound effect of the simplicity, connection, teaching, and zazen that Middle Way Zen has had on many in the 11 years that we called this address our home, with the circle ever widening from this point. We are now on Zoom with zazen, services, talks, and social catch-up 6 mornings/week…..small and still together.”

On another note, by popular request Jon Voss will repeat his basic Zoom training Wednesday, September 23rd from 11 to noon Pacific time. Here’s the description and link:

Time to add some backup to your online zendo team? This training will go over the basics for using Zoom to host online zendos. We will cover basic security features, how hosts can set up the zendo when they log on, using recorded bells and other sounds, and a quick intro to breakout groups if time allows. This class will be recorded.

Zoom link here

This class is in lieu of the regular Wednesday Zoom clinic. If you have any questions, you can email me or Jon, jon@jumpslide.com.

As we approach the Autumn Equinox, already experiencing the shorter days and changing colors of Autumn, may we find ways to connect with and support one another.

September 14, 2020

This morning I received a message from Josho Pat Phelan, the guiding teacher of Chapel Hill Zen Center, saying, “I am thinking of you and of California and the West Coast fires and send my deep wish for it to end soon.” I replied, “Thank you for your wishes concerning the wildfires. It’s such a call to do whatever we can to slow climate change.”

For me, slowing climate change is linked to getting out the vote for the November election. Nearly 200 people from sanghas across the country, including Shokuchi Deirdre Carrigan from Brooklyn Zen Center and Chris Fortin from Dharma Heart Zen in Sebastopol, CA participated in an online election retreat organized by many members of Berkeley Zen Center yesterday. This retreat generating over 4,000 letters encouraging people in swing states to vote. The 4 ½ hour retreat included zazen, a dharma talk by Roshi Joan Halifax of Upaya Zen Center, and time to write letters. Thus far this year over 50,000 letters have been generated in these retreats – an example of how, together, we can make a difference. It’s not too late to enroll in the three remaining retreats on September 27, October 4 and 11. Here’s the link to their website: https://www.electionretreat.org/

This Newsette also includes a description of what two sanghas are doing to support a global Buddhist response to feed the hungry, a new video of zazen instruction by Sojun Mel Weitsman, and a study group inspired by A Wild Love for the World, as well as an invitation to a special Zoom class with Jon Voss.

Houston Zen Center writes: “This year, during the global pandemic, it is more important than ever to come together to provide help and support for the many people who suffer food insecurity. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, the founder of Buddhist Global Relief’s Walk to Feed the Hungry, will join HZC’s action to give us encouraging words, as well as guided meditation.

“We invite everyone to participate by registering for this online action. You can also make a video of yourself walking or standing with a sign that supports Buddhist Global Relief. Your efforts and generosity will help with programs that provide direct relief, promote sustainable agriculture, and provide education and right livelihood opportunities for women. To learn more: https://mailchi.mp/houstonzen/walk-to-feed-the-hungry-october-26th-2187372?e=f8dc82556b

Berkeley Zen Center will also be participating in the Walk to Feed the Hungry.
Berkeley Zen Center’s Vice-Abbot Alan Senauke writes: “Sojun Roshi [who is 91 years old] offered a full zazen instruction, with some q&a, at a Friday afternoon talk in the Zendo. We tried to capture it in a high-quality video with good sound. This wonderful documentation of his teaching can be found on our new Berkeley Zen Video YouTube channel, which also features almost all our Saturday talks and classes since we moved onto the Zoom platform. You can browse through the offerings. Meanwhile, here is the link to Sojun’s instruction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBmYlr35mYU

On Saturday night I attended an online conversation between Stephanie Kaza (who spoke at the 2019 Branching Streams Conference) and Joanna Macy, Buddhist activist, teacher, and writer. In the midst of the fires burning in California, Oregon (Stephanie’s home) and Washington, their words on the climate crisis were healing and energizing. Stephanie edited A Wild Love for the World, Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Time, a tribute to Joanna’s decades of work to help us turn our despair into compassionate action. This book is the focus of study for Heart of Compassion sangha in Point Reyes, whose guiding teacher is Jaune Evans.

Here’s a reminder about a special Zoom class offered by Jon Voss this week:
Many sanghas are expanding both the range of Zoom offerings (e.g. beginning to do service and ceremonies on Zoom) and including more sangha members in hosting Zoom events. Here’s a description of a class Jon is offering next week:

Time to add some backup to your online zendo team? This training will go over the basics for using Zoom to host online zendos. We will cover: basic security features, how hosts can set up the zendo when they log on, using recorded bells and other sounds, and a quick intro to breakout groups if time allows. This class will be recorded.

Wednesday, September 16th from 11 to noon Pacific time.
Here’s the Zoom information:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/222402816?pwd=ODVWLzZ5ZUFtREcvS2M3YmkyVnVaUT09
Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143
This class is in lieu of the regular Wednesday Zoom clinic. If you have any questions, you can email me or Jon, jon@jumpslide.com.

May we all find the words and actions that inspire us to care for ourselves, one another, our sanghas, country, and planet.

September 9, 2020

I enjoyed seeing many of you at last week’s Soto Zen Buddhist Association Conference.

And I’m happy to let you know that we have a new Branching Streams webmaster, Jon Voss, a member of Mid-City Zen in New Orleans. I want to thank Eric Jonas of All Beings Zen Group in Washington, D.C. for his responsiveness and creativity in updating the website.

This Newsette features news from Branching Streams groups in Europe, Mexico, and Columbia. You will read of some challenges groups have faced due to Covid-19 as well as opportunities going online has afforded sanghas.

Djinn Gallager writes: Black Mountain ZC in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is hosting an international weeklong sesshin on the theme Entering the Buddha Way, led by Ryushin Paul Haller. “The sesshin has 62 participants, and we will be sitting together across the world in Ireland and Northern Ireland, the UK, the US, Canada, Thailand, Australia, Slovenia, Greece, Norway and Austria. Ryushin is offering the sesshin by donation to allow as many people as possible to attend, regardless of their finances.”

Akazienzendo in Berlin offers an international evening

Bernd Bender, their guiding teacher, writes: “The zendo was closed from April to the middle of June. Since then we very cautiously reopened and accommodate 14 people to sit, practicing physical distancing. Like in many practice places, most of our events still happen online only.

“Zen in English” started two months ago as a venue for practitioners in Greece to meet with me. (For the past five years I have been traveling to Greece four times a year for short weekend-retreats.) The big surprise of “Zen in English” has been that right from the start people here in Germany also participated and a dream came true: For years we have been trying to find ways for the Athens and the Berlin sanghas to meet, and now it is happening. Then some friends from California joined, and lately Djinn Gallagher in Belfast participated and hosted our last meeting.

It is a very heartwarming experience how in challenging times we can find creative ways to connect and practice together. The meetings happen every Friday, 7.30-9 pm, Central European time. We sit together for 30 minutes and chant the Heart Sutra, usually followed by a brief talk and discussion.”

The Zoom link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/s/3516453359?pwd=bDlaT042OWR0UDJmNmlFOUFVM1VUdz09#success. You are invited to join!

News and request from Montaña de Silencio Comunidad Zen Insight in Medellin, Columbia

Sanriki Jaramillo, their guiding teacher, was participating in the Spring Practice Period at Green Gulch Farm, which ended in mid-March, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He writes, “I returned to Medellín to guide our small community through the quarantine. It has been a time of great uncertainty and limitation. Although we are now close to ending our quarantine (the curve of contagion and death from COVID 19 has begun to diminish significantly in Colombia), the economic impact of the temporary closure of our center has been great. The largest part of our income is comprised of donations and voluntary support from practitioners and visitors, and our monthly income has been reduced by forty percent. In the last six months, we have incurred a large deficit that threatens our future. If we are not able to cover this deficit, we may have to give up our practice center, the house we currently occupy, where a small community of permanent and occasional practitioners live.

Fifteen days ago, we began a fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $20.000.000 Colombian pesos ($5,500 US dollars). The result so far has been encouraging as we have raised 60% of our goal, but we still have a long way to go before we reach it.”

Sanriki asked me to share their current situation in the hope that we might be able to assist them in guaranteeing our economic equilibrium for the rest of the year.

Link to the campaign: https://vaki.co/generosidad

Link to visit their page: http://montanadesilencio.org/

Sergio Stern, leader of Montaña Despierta in Jalapa Mexico writes: “ We just reopened the zendo at Montaña Despierta with limited capacity (8-10 persons) and all the measures of hygiene, some distancing and mask wearing. The rest of the sangha may connect through Zoom. We are also meeting regularly in nature, by a river, to do some walking meditation. We are beginning to feel the full force of the sangha coming back to life after a big blow just when the pandemic started and we had to cancel everything. We were beginning our very first Practice Period in which I was going to be Shuso under the guidance of one of our teachers, Anka Rick Spencer. We couldn’t continue. Many of us, including myself, had our lives completely upended and it was very difficult to give space to the practice and feel the close in-person support that we felt was needed for a Practice Period. But we are back with our once a week sitting group. Gaining in confidence little by little and turning again into that place of refuge for the people in our community, where Eijun Linda Cutts has led many sesshins.

We have a nice web page in English and Spanish with a unique audio library of Dharma talks in Spanish or with translation from the English which makes a special contribution to the Spanish-speaking Dharma world.” www.mdzen.com

Here’s an invitation to join Jon Voss’s weekly Zoom drop-in clinics, Wednesdays at 11 a.m. Pacific time if you need Zoom advice, support, or encouragement.

Wishing you all good health and resilience (the topic of a talk I’m giving at Monterey Zen Center) this week.

August 31, 2020

One of the gifts of this challenging time is the ease with which we can visit distant sanghas, hear their dharma talks, take part in their classes, one-day sittings, sesshins, and ceremonies. I am currently participating in a study group offered by Houston Zen Center and will be co-teaching a class at Mid-City Zen in New Orleans this fall – with no travel needed.

As I mentioned in a recent Newsette, Brooklyn Zen Center decided not to renew the lease on their Brooklyn home of many years. Laura O’Laughlin, (Laura and Greg Snyder are the guiding teachers) describes their process of grieving and celebration: “We have been going through a month-long process with the sangha of grieving our city temple (about two years ago BZC purchased land outside the city). We have had a few zoom evenings of recollection and the BIPOC community made a short video and another sangha member made a longer video .Folks in the city are visiting the space in small groups and next week Greg and I will do a ceremony to close the space. It has been such a powerful, beautiful practice space and our sangha grew substantially in that space, especially with the kitchen. Kitchen practice is still happening once a week until the end, creating soups and food for protestors and those in need.”

Laura also shared a 30 minute video. She describes it as “a beautiful and generous offering to our community, capturing our practice in our Brooklyn temple. It includes snippets of teachers’ talks at BZC and chanting.” Here’s the link: https://vimeo.com/450607102 password snowy2328.

I’ve signed up for a second election retreat. It’s not too late if you’d like to join other Buddhists in September or October for four hours of practice (zazen and a dharma talk) and letter writing to encourage people in swing states to register and vote. On September 13th you can join members of Houston Zen Center, San Francisco Zen Center, and Upaya Zen Center. Roshi Joan Halifax will give the dharma talk that day. Here’s the link for information about these election retreats: https://mailchi.mp/1325076a5ced/september-october-retreats?e=d3485a4663

Douglas Floyd, Board Chair of Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago, and I are working on a survey we will be sending you soon to learn how Branching Streams Zen Centers and sanghas have been affected by Covid-19 — what decisions you’re making about your practice spaces, how you’re offering the dharma, how your membership and finances may have changed. I’ve received many questions about what sanghas are thinking about renewing leases, reopening, amplifying online offerings, surviving financially. We will be able to share the survey results on our website.

Branching Streams is in search of a new Webmaster. After several years of maintaining the Branching Streams website, our wonderful webmaster, Eric Jonas, of All Beings Zen in Washington, DC, needs to pass on the baton. Please let me know if you or someone in your sangha would like to be our next webmaster.

Here’s an invitation to join Jon Voss’s weekly Zoom drop-in clinics, Wednesdays at 11 a.m. Pacific time if you need Zoom advice, support, or encouragement.

May you find ways to nourish yourselves and to connect with others this week. I hope to see some of you at the Soto Zen Buddhist Association Conference September 3rd and 4th.

August 25, 2020

This has been a challenging week for those of us in California, with over 600 wildfires flaring all around the state, many of them close to practice centers and homes of sangha members and causing poor air quality in the Bay Area and beyond. In addition, a tropical storms is on its way to the Gulf Coast, endangering communities in Louisiana and Texas. Such vivid reminders of the climate crisis are impossible to ignore.

Many sanghas have been addressing this issue for several years. Climate justice was a theme of the 2018 Branching Streams Conference, which included a wonderful presentation by Stephanie Kaza on systems theory and the climate crisis. Given the pandemics of Covid-19 and the heightened awareness of racial injustice, the precarious state of our planet may have moved to a “back burner.” Please let me know if your sangha is involved in climate justice actions or study and I will include that in the next Newsette.

As the days grow shorter, even in places that are still experiencing the heat of summer, signs of autumn are unmistakable. School is starting, for most students, from pre-school to college, online. Ancient Dragon Zen Gate’s senior students host a Zen group for students at the University of Chicago, which was recently featured in a Tricycle article, “Buddhists on Campus”.

Many sanghas are planning Fall Practice Periods, some starting as soon as September. Mountain Rain Zen Centre in Vancouver is opening its Fall Practice period with a weekend retreat and will be opening its zendo for up to ten sangha members at a time, physically distanced, as well as offering the retreat online. Guiding teachers Michael Newton and Kate McCandless carefully worked on a zendo reopening plan.

Seattle Soto Zen’s guiding teacher Allison Tait writes, “I am receiving support from the teachers both Bellingham and Vancouver to offer an [online] Seattle practice period! SSZ has only ever had a shuso one time before, so the Sangha is very excited.” This inter-sangha support and cooperation is happening more easily with Zoom.

In case you missed it, I’m mentioning again Thomas Bruner’s Fundraising for Buddhists class, offered by Houston Zen Center, three sessions beginning September 1st. For a description or to register, go to: https://houstonzen.org/events-calendar/2020/9/1-september-fundraising-for-buddhists

Jon Voss continues to generously offer his weekly Zoom drop-in clinics, Wednesdays at 11 a.m. Pacific time.

May you, your loved one, and all beings be healthy and safe.

August 18, 2020

In 1963, in the summer before I graduated from college, I spent three weeks in a voter registration project in Greensboro, North Carolina, sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee. I joined a group of about 20 Black and white college students. We were housed in the basement of a Black church and went door-to-door to encourage African-Americans to register to vote. I have never forgotten how precious and precarious is the right to vote. Getting out the vote continues to be of vital importance.

In recent years many Zen Buddhist practitioners have organized election sesshins in swing states. This year, leaders and members of sanghas across the country are participating in online election retreats. Individual and groups of sangha members can participate in these letter-writing efforts to get out the vote. You can find more information at https://www.electionretreat.org/

In response to the climate crisis, the Shogaku Zen Institute is offering a 13-week course in Eco-Dharma, beginning September 10th, led by David Loy and Kritee (Kanko). Some questions the course will address include:

  • How can we respond urgently and effectively to the ongoing climate emergency and the larger ecological crisis—and stay sane doing it?
  • How do we understand the interconnection of environmental degradation with colonialism, racism and neoliberal economics?
  • What contemplative/spiritual principles and perspectives can help us forge a response to our ecological predicament?

For more information, here’s the link.

In case you missed it, I’m mentioning again Thomas Bruner’s Fundraising for Buddhists class, offered by Houston Zen Center, three sessions beginning September 1st. For a description or to register, go to: https://houstonzen.org/events-calendar/2020/9/1-september-fundraising-for-buddhists

Jon Voss continues to generously offer his weekly Zoom drop-in clinics, Wednesdays at 11 a.m. Pacific time.

I’d like to end with words from the late John Lewis, in a statement he wrote just before he died in July, “When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”

August 10, 2020

Several sanghas are finding creative ways to practice together outdoors, physically distanced. This image is from Richmond, VA Zen Center, at Sheilds Lake:

Richmond Zen Center: Sitting Zazen by the Water

If you’d like to know more, please go to: https://www.richmondzen.org/boundless-zendo

Houston Zen Center is offering a second series of Fundraising for Buddhists led by Thomas Bruner, as the first one filled. The next series will be September 1, 8, and 15.

Jon Voss will be hosting the Wednesday Zoom weekly drop-in clinics, at 11 a.m. Pacific time.

This continues to be a time of great hardship for many people in the U.S. and around the world. May we find ways to share our practice in ever-widening circles.

August 4, 2020

This morning, August 4th, after online zazen, Abbot David Zimmerman was doshi for the monthly Suzuki Roshi memorial we recently resumed online at San Francisco Zen Center. He made the offerings of tea, rice, and sweet water at the Kaisando altar and the kokyo led us (we were muted) in chanting the Harmony of Difference and Equality. I thought of all of you, with gratitude for the many expressions of practice you are offering around the U.S. and in many other countries.

I am wondering what your experience is, offering services and ceremonies. What innovations have you experimented with? I read on the Soto Zen Buddhist Association listserve about a jukai ceremony at Red Cedar Zen Community in Bellingham, WA led by guiding teacher Nomon Tim Burnett. It was physically distanced, outside on a deck, with two preceptors, one ordainee, one support person, everyone masked and pretty much maintaining the 6′. They broadcast the ceremony live on Zoom; about 50 people participated. Tim thought it worked “surprisingly well.”

Houston Zen Center is planning an outdoor Bodhisattva Precepts giving ceremony for September. Abbot Gaelyn Godwin commented about this in the SZBA listserve: “September might be cool enough in Houston, and we might have calmed down in the pandemic mode, to allow us to have an outdoor spacious ceremony for 6 new Bodhisattvas and a widely-spaced community.”

In the online Zoom Clinic with Jon Voss, Douglas Floyd from Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago and others have been learning how to record bells to use in zazen and services. If you want to expand the doanryo for services or ceremonies, your sangha members are welcome to join our weekly drop-in clinics, Wednesdays at 11am Pacific time.

How are students sewing rakusus in your sanghas, given social distancing? Zen Center North Shore in Beverly, Massachusetts, whose guiding teacher is Joan Amaral, will be hosting their annual sewing retreat online. It will be led by Hogetsu Laurie Belzer from Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago, who, prior to Covid-19 would spend a week in Massachusetts.

The members of Centro Zen l’Arco in Rome Italy are sitting sesshin online this week with their Abbot, Dario Girolami. Those participating in the sesshin Zoomed in to Eijun Linda Cutts’s Sunday Green Gulch dharma talk this week, as Eijun Cutts is Dario’s teacher. I had attended Dario’s Mountain Seat Ceremony in Rome last year and was happy to see the familiar faces of many sangha members who hosted me the week I was there.

Looking toward the Fall, some centers are planning practice periods or ongoing classes. Please let me know if you’re planning activities that you’d like other sanghas to know about.

I’m continually inspired to hear of the connections and collaborations between sanghas, amplified by the ability to visit another sangha without getting in a car or a plane.

May you be nourished by Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha – the whole wide world.

July 29, 2020

It’s past mid-summer and many sanghas are finding creative ways to practice together out-of-doors.

This Newsette includes glimpses of Ancient Dragon Zen Gate’s Camping Sesshin and an outdoor work-day at Milwaukee Zen Center. If you have found ways to practice in nature, please share your experiences.

This Newsette also contains an update about the launch of Unpacking the Whiteness of Leadership last weekend and a workshop next weekend with Paula Arai offered by Kannon Do in Mountain View CA.

This is an excerpt from a longer article with photos that will be posted soon on the Branching Streams website: “Since 2016, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago has held an annual three-day Camping Sesshin that combines traditional Zen forms and Dharma teachings within the natural setting provided by Illinois Beach State Park, writes Senior Student Eishin Nancy Easton. “Our sesshin takes place in a sheltered, open-air environment, and opportunities for tent camping are available for overnight participants. Daily Dharma talks, discussions, communal meals and nature walks are offered by our co-leaders Eishin Nancy Easton and Gyoshin Laurel Ross, and other senior students under the guidance of Guiding Dharma Teacher Taigen Dan Leighton. This sesshin offers us an opportunity to bring our practice to an encounter with the natural world, without venturing far from home.

“For Ancient Dragon as a non-residential, urban practice center, Camping Sesshin brings a welcome opportunity to practice together in an extended way, as participants bring their own tents and camp overnight in the land surrounding our tent zendo. Pre-dawn zazen on the shore of Lake Michigan is one of the highlights, along with our extended walking meditation along a trail that precedes the morning’s Dharma talk.

“During the COVID pandemic this year, we have not been able to occupy our zendo, and have similarly not felt that it was safe to offer this practice due to the hazards of communal food preparation. However, plans are currently in the works to offer a half-day or all-day sitting in this format, with participants bringing their own bag lunch. Our spacious tent zendo can easily accommodate 6-8 socially distanced participants, and the outdoor setting adds to our physical safety.

Reirin Gumbel, Guiding Teacher of Milwaukee Zen Center writes about a recent sangha work-day: “Sangha members worked on projects individually and brought their own lunches and water. The work was mostly outdoors, weeding and repair, a couple of members cleaned the basement, and one person with a truck took various items to Goodwill and to the dump. It was lovely to see everyone in person, though at a distance.”

Kannon Do Zen Center is offering a workshop, The Healing Power of Everyday Activities in the Time of Covid-19, on Saturday, August 1st led by Dr.Paula Arai, author of Women Living Zen and Bringing Zen Home. You can find more information at: https://kannondo.org/event/summer-workshop-with-paula-arai/

Branching Streams launched our first online course on Saturday, Unpacking the Whiteness of Leadership, led by Crystal Johnson. 107 participants from 29 different sanghas in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. enrolled in the course. Thanks to Jon Voss of Mid-City Zen and Teresa Bouza for their technical support.

Jon’s Zoom Clinic helped Teresa and me learn how to manage security and create breakout groups on Zoom. All are welcome to join our weekly drop-in clinics, Wednesdays at 11am Pacific time.

July 20, 2020

This will be a brief Newsette, as I have only a few items to share with you – all things occurring on the coming weekend. A dharma friend shared a term this morning that resonates with me: “caution fatigue.” With the spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths in 40 states, the need for physical distancing and wearing masks continues.

The Branching Streams Unpacking the Whiteness of Leadership course begins on Saturday July 25th. One hundred participants from sanghas in many states, Canada, and the U.K. have registered. Dana for participating in the course raised over $10,000 for the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland CA.

Crystal Johnson, who will be teaching the course, gave a dharma talk at SF Zen Center on Saturday July 18th which I recommend. Here’s a link to the dharma talk archives, where you can find a video of her talk.

Royce Johnson, a priest at Houston Zen Center, will be leading a one-day sitting that same day. You can learn more about it here.

And San Francisco Zen Center is offering an online retreat with Rev. angel Kyodo Williams and Abbess Furyu Schroeder on Radical Dharma from Friday the 24th at 7p.m. to Sunday the 26th at 4p.m.

Jon Voss’s Zoom clinic continues: All are welcome to join our weekly drop-in clinics, Wednesdays at 11am Pacific time.

May you all be healthy and strong – and finding ways to enjoy summer despite “caution fatigue.”

July 14, 2020

As we reach mid-summer, sheltering in place continues in many states, not in others, as the Covid-19 virus continues to take lives and wreak economic havoc. I hear that some sanghas are exploring what it would take to be able to meet in person, and others are wrestling with hard decisions about whether to renew leases or have already decided not to do so.

This Newsette contains updates about the Branching Streams Unpacking the Whiteness of Leadership course, new dates for the Fundraising Class Houston Zen Center is hosting led by Thomas Bruner, some words from the Brooklyn Zen Center’s board regarding closing their Brooklyn center, recommendations for new books by Marcia Lieberman and Pamela Weiss, and a reminder about Jon Voss’s weekly Zoom Clinic.

We were able to admit everyone who applied, including those on the waiting list, to Unpacking the Whiteness of Leadership. There are about 100 people enrolled in the course. I think this speaks to the heightened awareness of systemic racism in the U.S. and throughout the world and a …

Fundraising for Buddhists: From Hesitance to Confidence! Taught by Thomas Bruner, this workshop will be hosted by Houston Zen Center. For more information, contact info@houstonzen.org. New dates: Tuesdays, August 11, 25, 6 – 8 pm.

Brooklyn Zen Center’s board sent a letter to their sangha describing the process they went through to reach a decision to close their city temple. The board wrote: “We realize that this may be painful news to hear. Our temple on Carroll Street has been our spiritual home for over a decade. Please stay tuned for emails and announcements about opportunities for dialogue and ritual that will allow us to express our collective grief and appreciation around the loss of this space. Please know that we are committed to a Zen practice space in Brooklyn. Once we have more clarity regarding a post-pandemic New York City, we will assess what makes sense at that time regarding a space. In the meantime, we will be wrapping the virtual sangha around Ancestral Heart and supporting our community from the monastery.”

I was saddened to hear this news, as you may be if you’ve visited Brooklyn Zen Center – and I know that other centers, particularly those that rent spaces, are grappling with questions of whether they can afford to keep paying rent on spaces they are currently unable to occupy due to the pandemic.

New books: Your sangha may have had a summer visit from Marcia Lieberman, a San Francisco-based member of Presidio Hill Sangha. Marcia’s many skills include writing, gardening, and photography. You will soon find a letter from Marcia on the Branching Streams website, with a link to order her new book, Clean Slate, Images from Dogen’s Garden, published by Goff Books.

Pamela Weiss, a dharma heir of Teah Strozer, former guiding teacher at Brooklyn Zen Center, gave a riveting dharma talk at City Center last Saturday on themes from her book published today by North Atlantic Books, ­A Bigger Sky, Awakening a Fierce Feminine Buddhism.

Although both books are available at Amazon, you may want to order them through your local bookseller.

Jon Voss, our Zoom wizard, says “All are welcome to join our weekly drop-in clinics, Wednesdays at 11am Pacific time. These weekly clinics are designed as open workshops in which participants bring any questions or problems they are facing, as well as their own ideas and expertise for what is working in their own sangha. We share resources we’ve discovered during the week, try out different methods, do hands-on training, and generally provide a place for mutual support. If you need the meeting password, please contact Jon Voss.”

I’ll end this Newsette with lines we chant in the SFZC Online Zendo every morning after the robe chant: May all be healthy and strong. May all have ease and joy in their lives and be free from suffering.

With deep bows,

Tova

July 7, 2020

I hope this Newsette finds you in good health and finding nourishment in practice in the midst of a spike in coronavirus cases in many states, including California, and ongoing unrest in the U.S.

This Newsette includes an update on the upcoming Unpacking the Whiteness of Leadership from a Buddhist Perspective course, announces Thomas Bruner’s next Fundraising for Buddhists class, shares Houston Zen Center’s deliberations on reopening, and offers a creative sangha-building idea from Brooklyn Zen Center. It also provides the link to Jon Voss’s weekly Zoom Clinic, and an invitation to join a weekend workshop with angel Kyodo williams and Furyu Schroeder offered online by SFZC.

Registrations for the Unpacking the Whiteness of Leadership from a Buddhist Perspective course have poured in and the course is at its capacity. We closed registration today and are taking names for a waiting list. I know this will be disappointing news to some of you. Crystal is looking into the possibility of offering a second course starting later and I will keep you posted. If you would like to be on the waiting list please fill out the registration form. The link is: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Xk35dishqaIRKl4Gz85BDvDt-QycwkDE_rIkeKHHLtw/edit

Thomas Bruner’s next Fundraising for Buddhists series will be hosted by Houston Zen Center on Aug. 4, 11 and 18. This class is highly recommended for board members as well as teachers or sangha members who wish to hone their fundraising skills.

Reopening: Houston Zen Center’s board president, Carter White, wrote about why HZC is not reopening this July. It may be helpful to your sangha as questions about reopening arise. Here’s the link: https://mailchi.mp/houstonzen/a-message-from-houston-zen-center

An idea for your sangha from Brooklyn Zen Center: collecting Kitchen Practice Stories
“Our kitchens are also our home zendo and, even if we are not able at this time to prepare meals together as a sangha, we can still support each other in our kitchen practice. In this spirit, we invite you to share your stories and images of kitchen practice during this time of physical distancing. Whether you have been cooking by yourself, sharing the kitchen with your family or with near-strangers, fixing quick snacks or cooking elaborate meals – we would love to hear from you.” They plan to post the stories and images on their website.

Jon Voss continues to offer the Zoom Clinic. He says, “All are welcome to join our weekly drop-in clinics, Wednesdays at 11am Pacific time. These weekly clinics are designed as open workshops in which participants bring any questions or problems they are facing, as well as their own ideas and expertise for what is working in their own sangha. We share resources we’ve discovered during the week, try out different methods, do hands-on training, and generally provide a place for mutual support. If you need the meeting password, please contact Jon Voss.

Radical Dharma: Embodying Race, Love, and Liberation with angel Kyodo Williams and Furyu Schroeder will be offered online the weekend of July 24 – 26. For more information, here is the link: https://www.sfzc.org/online-programs

June 30, 2020

Dear Branching Streams Teachers and Leaders,

Some of us are experiencing the illness or loss of loved ones, and many of us are looking for ways to respond to cries for change in our communities, cities and countries. At the same time the breadth and availability of dharma offerings can nourish and sustain us.

This Newsette includes information about how to register for the first Branching Streams online course, Unpacking the Whiteness of Leadership, an invitation to participate in online election retreats, a description of Houston Zen Center’s closing ceremony of their summer practice period, and a reminder about Jon Voss’s Zoom Clinic.

Unpacking the Whiteness of Leadership will begin on July 25th thanks to the enthusiastic response of many of you. I’m attaching the flyer, which you can share electronically or print. Here is a link to the registration form.

Please note that if multiple members of a sangha wish to participate, each person needs to complete a registration form.

Election Retreats

Those of us who attended the 2019 Branching Streams Conference will remember Rob Lyons from Berkeley Zen Center who made a presentation about Election Sesshins. These are now offered online, as half-day events and focus on letter-writing. Rob writes:

“Though we still don’t know if we can hold our in-person Buddhist Election Retreat in October, in the meantime we’re putting all of our energy into a new kind of retreat: on Zoom, with a focus on letter-writing to Democratic voters in swing states. One participant in the pilot letter-writing retreat two weeks ago commented, “The day was wonderful. I loved the balance of Zazen, chanting, Dharma talk and letter writing . . . I am tired, but satisfied that my effort went for a good purpose.”

We are excited to announce the launch of two online half-day Letter-Writing Retreats, on Sunday July 12 and Sunday July 26.” Here’s a link for more information.

Houston Zen Center created a meaningful way for the guiding teacher, Gaelyn Godwin, and the Shuso, Zengetsu Vicki Glenn, to do a closing ceremony at the end of their summer practice period, although their Zendo was closed. This link includes a short video, which I found very moving.

Practice Period Closing Ceremony
By Gaelyn Godwin on Jun 26, 2020 08:55 pm, Houston Zen Center

“Summer 2020 Practice Period closed with bows to all the participants. This was a unique practice period, for all of us. The participants all found unique benefits in practicing together in this virtual way. Then, as usual at the end of an intensive time, the benefits are dedicated to everyone, both inside and outside of the practice period. Please watch this video to see how the ceremony took place. You can see that photos of the participants line the zendo. The residents bowed to the images of the participants every day. In the closing ceremony, the residents bowed to each and every one of the participants.”

Jon Voss will resume the Zoom Clinic this Wednesday. All are welcome to join our weekly drop-in clinics, Wednesdays at 11am Pacific time. These weekly clinics are designed as open workshops in which participants bring any questions or problems they are facing, as well as their own ideas and expertise for what is working in their own sangha. We share resources we’ve discovered during the week, try out different methods, do hands-on training, and generally provide a place for mutual support. If you need the meeting password, please contact Jon Voss.

As July 4th, which Thich Nhat Hanh calls Interdependence Day, approaches may you be healthy, may you find joy and ease in the midst of a time of great change.

bowing with appreciation for all of you,

Tova

June 22, 2020

Dear Branching Streams Teachers and Leaders,

This week’s Newsette is very rich, as many of you are sending news of your sangha’s activities and recommending events, talks, and other resources offered by other sanghas.

Thank you to those of you who contacted me about the first Branching Streams online course, Unpacking the Whiteness of Leadership with Crystal Johnson. The planning group will meet this week to design a registration form and clarify the process for registration. In case you missed last week’s announcement, this will be a 6-week course meeting on Saturday afternoons (most likely 1 to 3 PM Pacific time) every two weeks beginning July 25th. If you are interested please let me know by June 24th, including the number of people who would like to attend. A longer description with Crystal’s bio is attached.

Cultivating Solidarity and Building Stamina for Transformative Action for White Practitioners

Crystal Johnson, who will be teaching the course for Branching Streams, will be leading an online daylong event for white people at East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland CA on Saturday June 27th. If there are white folks in your sangha who might be interested, please let them know. This could be a good introduction to Crystal’s work for those who are interested in the Branching Streams course.

Zoom Clinic with Jon Voss will continue!

There is still interest in and need for Jon’s Zoom Clinic. It will not meet this week, as Jon is participating in a Sangha Week program. It will resume on Wednesday, July 1st.Here is the link to join weekly drop-in clinics, 11am Pacific time. These weekly clinics are designed as open workshops in which participants bring any questions or problems they are facing, as well as their own ideas and expertise for what is working in their own sangha. If you need the meeting password, please contact Jon Voss. Jon will be available for individual consultations.

Reopening

Daya Goldschlag, guiding teacher of Stone Willow Zendo in Spokane WA reports: Stone Willow Zendo has started meeting in our backyard at 8am on Friday mornings. Everyone brings their own chairs or cushions and we sit a good distance from each other. A lot more noise than inside….squirrels, robins and garbage trucks rumbling along in the alley along with lovely fresh air breezes. This Friday we will sit slightly closer and have study…passing our study book to read aloud along with hand sanitizer. At the end of June the sangha will come 25 miles NW of Spokane to our 30 acres and we will have an outdoor 1/2 day retreat. Again, folks will bring their own chairs and cushions, water, sunhats and bag lunches. We will sit among the ponderosa pine and douglas fir.

Houston Zen Center Glossary of terms

This is a glossary of terms related to Diversity, Equity, Inclusison, and Accessibility, posted by Houston Zen Center. It was recommended by Inryu Ponce-Barger, guiding teacher of All Beings Zen Sangha in Washington. “This living document was compiled by the White People 4 Black Lives Class Committee as an act of love and commitment to making our spaces and our language more accessible.” DC: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/523901f9e4b08b04ff30cc5f/t/5ee68316389cec341a089376/1592165142416/Glossary+of+Terms.pdf

Awakened Action: Women Leaders Speak to Race, Poverty, Climate, and the Pandemic sponsored by Upaya Zen Center

Chris Fortin, guiding teacher of Women’s Lotus Sangha in Sebastopol CA attended this daylong conference on June 21st and recommends listening to the recordings: https://www.upaya.org/resources/awakened-action/

Dharma talks focusing on meeting the challenges of this time:

Recommended by Choro Antonaccio, Tanto at Austin Zen Center: Zenju Earthlyn Manuel spoke two weeks ago as part of a year-long program called Commit to Sit. This link will take you straight to a Vimeo recording of the talk. https://tinyurl.com/y8spejzg

I recommend two talks given at San Francisco Zen Center this past week: Yuki Kobiyama (Tenzo at Green Gulch Farm) on June 24th and David Zimmerman (City Center Abiding Abbot) on June 27th. Lucy Xiao, a City Center resident and practice leader will be speaking on Wednesday, July 1st. All these talks can be found at https://www.sfzc.org/offerings/livestream-media.

I hope all of you are in good health and taking care of yourselves as you take care of your sanghas.

With appreciation,

Tova